Singapore Chinese Film Festival

Acclaimed mental illness drama Mad World opens Singapore Chinese Film Festival

Mad World, starring Shawn Yue (above left) and Eric Tsang, is the debut feature by director Wong Chun.
Mad World, starring Shawn Yue (above left) and Eric Tsang, is the debut feature by director Wong Chun.PHOTO: SINGAPORE CHINESE FILM FESTIVAL
Mad World, starring Shawn Yue and Eric Tsang, is the debut feature by director Wong Chun (above).
Mad World, starring Shawn Yue and Eric Tsang, is the debut feature by director Wong Chun (above).PHOTO: SINGAPORE CHINESE FILM FESTIVAL
Vicky Wong stars Gordon Lam.
Vicky Wong stars Gordon Lam.PHOTO: SINGAPORE CHINESE FILM FESTIVAL
Kong Weiyi.
Kong Weiyi.PHOTO: SINGAPORE CHINESE FILM FESTIVAL
Cui Yang and Pan Ruo Yao.
Cui Yang and Pan Ruo Yao.PHOTO: ALVIN LEE
Lisa Yang and Chang Chen.
Lisa Yang and Chang Chen.PHOTO: SINGAPORE CHINESE FILM FESTIVAL

Opening film Mad World highlights the plight of those suffering from bipolar disorder

The mental illness drama Mad World (2016) from Hong Kong never becomes a dry or preachy "issues film". Credit for this goes to the fully realised characters portrayed by a strong cast of veteran actors, including Shawn Yue as the bipolar protagonist, Eric Tsang as the guilt-ridden father and Elaine Jin as the embittered, pain-ridden mother who dies in an accident.

Impressively, this is the debut feature from director Wong Chun, 28.

Speaking in Cantonese over the telephone from Hong Kong, he says: "This is more of a niche film, so we wanted to use more mainstream actors whom people could identify with to broaden its appeal.

"It was quite difficult to find a suitable actor for the lead role. I was grateful to Yue for being willing to show this sensitive and frail side of himself to audiences."

  • BOOK IT / SINGAPORE CHINESE FILM FESTIVAL

  • WHERE: The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane; Golden Village (Suntec City), 3E Temasek Boulevard; and National Museum of Singapore, 93 Stamford Road

    WHEN: Friday to May 7

    ADMISSION: $13 a ticket from www.gv.com.sg and www.sistic.com.sg. Tickets at $10 for Singapore Film Society and Singapore University of Social Sciences members at the box office.

    INFO: www.scff.sg

Tsang, who had produced one of Wong's short films, joined the cast first and, once he agreed to take the part, it gave the director the confidence to approach the other actors.

Mad World is the opening film of this year's Singapore Chinese Film Festival. Tickets for its screenings on Saturday and Sunday are sold out. However, they are still available for the May 4 session.

The deeply humanist film has been critically acclaimed. Among other accolades, it won Golden Horse Awards for Best New Director and Best Supporting Actress for Jin as well as Hong Kong Film Awards for Best New Director, Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor for Tsang.

The film was born of a news item that its screenwriter Florence Chan, who is dating Wong, had come across - about a middle-aged man who accidentally kills his ill father while taking care of him.

He recalls: "She couldn't find out more details about the case. What happened between the two exactly and what happened to the man later? But she felt that we should be concerned about the people and what they experienced and not the case in and of itself and that led to the creation of the script."

He and Chan graduated from the School of Creative Media at Hong Kong City University in 2011 with a major in Cinematic Arts. They had also worked together on 6th March (2011), which Wong directed and co-wrote with Chan. It is about protesters and cops facing one another in conversation over one long night and was nominated for Best Short Film at the Golden Horse Awards.

Wong feels little pressure at award ceremonies as the most important thing to him is the reaction of audiences. He says: "There are those with bipolar or mood disorders who watch it and feel comforted watching it, that someone understands what they're going through, that they're not alone.

"Also, we are speaking up for this group of people whose views might not be valued regardless of what they say. It's as though the movie is giving them a voice. This is important as well."

Awards are useful in one way, though. "They could pull in new audiences to take notice of the movie and that's a good thing."

While some have bemoaned the state of Hong Kong's film industry in recent years, Wong embraces the challenge of movie-making at this juncture. The newcomer says: "In this new era, what should Hong Kong movies do and be so that they can continue to have a place in world cinema? As a new director, it's my responsibility to grapple with this."


Also screening at the festival

TRIVISA (2016)

This crime thriller by new directors Frank Hui, Jevons Au (Ten Years, 2015) and Vicky Wong stars Gordon Lam, Richie Jen and Jordan Chan as notorious Hong Kong mobsters who are planning something big together before the handover of political sovereignty of the territory from the British to the Chinese in 1997.

Trivisa was the big winner at the Hong Kong Film Awards with five gongs, including for Best Film, Best Director and Best Actor for Lam, who edged out Jen. It also nabbed the Best Original Screenplay and Best Film Editing honours at the Golden Horse Awards.

THE SUMMER IS GONE (2016)

A period of huge changes in China's industrialising economy is seen through the eyes of a little boy (Kong Weiyi) in Inner Mongolia in the 1990s.

Chinese director Zhang Dalei's black-and-white debut work was heralded as Best Feature Film at the Golden Horse Awards and Kong, 11, was named Best New Actor.

SEED (2016)

Singaporean film student Alvin Lee won the Best New Director Award at the China Short Film Golden Hummingbird Awards with his short film - starring Cui Yang and Pan Ruo Yao - about a couple who visit a little boy who had received the donated heart of their dead son.

A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY (1991)

A story about junior high school students in early 1960s Taipei, A Brighter Summer Day (starring Lisa Yang and Chang Chen) is an ambitious film from the late Taiwanese auteur Edward Yang featuring more than 100 amateur actors over almost four hours.

Yang addressed themes such as national identity and tumultuous adolescence. It was named Best Film at the Golden Horse Awards and the Asia Pacific Film Festival.

Boon Chan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2017, with the headline 'Lending a voice to the mentally ill'. Print Edition | Subscribe